William Ruto, Raila Odinga camps in epic clash for Laikipia senatorial seat

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From left: Former Foreign Affairs PS Thuita Mwangi (Narc-Kenya), Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga (Kanu), Laikipia Deputy Governor John Mwaniki (Jubilee) and Senator John Kinyua (UDA)

The battle for the Laikipia senatorial seat has intensified as heavyweights go full throttle to bag the position.

In a contest that has narrowed down to a Kenya Kwanza Alliance versus Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition duel, Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are set for a bruising battle in the cosmopolitan county that is home to their key men — Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who is Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board chair, and The Service Party (TSP) leader Mwangi Kiunjuri, a principal in Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition.

The two main presidential candidates are fighting for the 263,012 votes in the county.

Eight contestants are seeking to wrestle the seat from the incumbent, Mr John Kinyua of Dr Ruto’s UDA party.

Apart from Mr Kinyua, three other candidates are allied to Kenya Kwanza— businessman John Kiama of TSP, Mr Robert Ndung’u of Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) and Mr Henry Kimani of Moses Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi.

In Mr Odinga’s camp, candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring through party tickets affiliated with the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition are Laikipia Deputy Governor John Mwaniki (Jubilee), former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga (Kanu), Mr Julius Mamaiyo (ODM) and former Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi (Narc- Kenya).

Others who have been cleared are independent candidates Steve Chege and Simon Gathuo.

Plans by the Azimio team to pick the strongest candidates for all elective seats before the end of the month to enable the coalition bag more seats in the August 9 General Election have, however, caused jitters.

All the candidates under the Azimio umbrella, like their counterparts in Kenya Kwanza, have been rallying support for their bids for over six months.

During a tour of Laikipia County, the coalition’s deputy presidential candidate, Ms Martha Karua, said parties affiliated with Azimio will deliberate and select candidates to present to the electorate based on the candidate’s popularity.

She said this would deny their rivals a chance of winning more seats in the polls.

“We do not want a situation where candidates under the Azimio house will compete and divide our votes and enable our rivals to win the seats. We will sit down as the Azimio house and decide on which candidate to present to the electorate.

“We want to make sure that our candidates win. We must ensure that you have elected a governor and other leaders whom we will work with smoothly under the Azimio administration to actualise our manifesto,” she said in Nyahururu town.

Fair and transparent

Ms Karua, who was accompanied by Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and senator candidates John Mwaniki (Jubilee) and Maina Njenga (Kanu), among other candidates, however, assured aspirants that the process will be fair and transparent.

“The selection of the candidates and popularity study will be carried out fairly and everyone will be involved. Our intention is not to block anyone from contesting but as a coalition, we have to get the strongest candidate to ensure that we win most of the seats,” said the Narc-Kenya party leader.

This will be the second time Mr Njenga, the reformed leader of the outlawed sect, will be taking a stab at the seat, having lost to Mr Kinyua in 2017.

In the 2017 General Election, Mr Njenga’s nomination papers were controversially rejected by the ruling party, prompting him to ditch Jubilee and vie on Kanu ticket.

Mr Kinyua garnered 145,150 votes against Mr Njenga’s 53,177.

However, he alleged the electoral process was doctored to give his competitor outright victory.

In 2017, Mr Kimani (Chama Cha Kazi) and Mr Mwangi (Narc-K), vying for the senate and gubernatorial seats respectively, were defeated in the Jubilee primaries and opted to back the winners.

For the other five, this will be the first bid to contest in elective politics.

With 263, 012 registered voters at stake, ethnicity, financial muscle, candidate’s popularity, regional balance and party affiliation will play a key role in determining who will become the county’s third senator.

Laikipia West constituency, from where the incumbent Kinyua, Mr Njenga, Mr Thuita, Mr Kimani and Mr Ndung’u hail from, has 118,865 registered voters while Laikipia East, where Mr Mwaniki and Mr Kiama come from, has 96,395 voters.

Laikipia North, where Mr Mamaiyo comes from, has 47,752 voters.

In the past two elections (2013 and 2017), the populous Laikipia West scooped the top two seats (governor and senator).

The constituency, which is the largest in the county, had in the 2013 General Election also scooped the woman rep seat, but it retained the first two and lost the latter seat to Laikipia East in the 2017 polls.

With 48, 558 voters, this is the first time Laikipia North, which is considered a swing constituency, is producing a candidate for the Senate seat since the advent of devolution.

The constituency is mostly inhabited by a pastoral community.

All aspirants are promising to tackle issues of perennial bandit attacks and cattle rustling.

Other issues include human-wildlife conflicts and inter-community clashes.

“Once I get to the Senate I will work to bring all communities living in Laikipia County together with the aim of coming up with a lasting solution to perennial banditry and intercommunity clashes. Peace in Laikipia can only be realised if all communities agree to live in peace and solve issues without resorting to enmity,” said Mr Njenga.


The former Mungiki leader also promises to push for the reinstatement of Kenya Police Reservists and the deployment of more security officers to help curb insecurity.

On the other hand, Mr Mwaniki, seeks to redefine the role of a senator and make the office a vibrant one, citing his vast experience in public administration.

Mr Mwaniki, who has enjoyed a cordial working relationship with his boss Ndiritu Muriithi since they were elected into office, notes that the decision to run for the Senate position was informed by the demands of Laikipia residents.

He said the county has had an ‘absent senator’ hence his decision not to be Governor Muriithi’s running mate this year.

“I want to be a present senator, we will work together with the governor,” he said, adding that he has the blessings of his boss to vie for the seat.

Senator Kinyua takes credit for the increase of the county’s revenue allocation from the national government.

“I have undertaken my oversight role effectively. I am still the best bet for the people of Laikipia,” said Mr Kinyua.

On the other hand, Mr Thuita is banking on the skills he has gained in the past 20 years he has served in public administration in different positions.

He said this gives him an upper hand in the contest.

Mr Kiama, a close ally of former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, cites insecurity and misuse of public resources as the issues he wants to tackle if elected as senator.

“I want to ensure that I will be a defender of the people of Laikipia at the national level.I will also undertake my oversight role effectively to ensure proper use of county resources,” he said.

Mr Ndung'u, an expert in law and security, said he will focus on ensuring that the seven key tenants of human security are represented in the Senate on behalf of Laikipia County.

“Once I am elected to the Senate I will push for the establishment of a police training college in Laikipia so that we can create a buffer zone in our insecure areas in Laikipia and end issues of insecurity once and for all,” he said.

Mr Ndung’u said the region has missed a leader who represents it both in the Senate and at the national level.

“A senator should be the mouthpiece of the people he or she represents. When our people were being killed in Ol Moran, no one came out to speak for them.

“Economic security will be my other priority. I will also go and look for ‘security industrialisation’ so that we can save our farmers from incurring losses as a result of lack of readily available markets,” he said.

Mr Kimani said he has what it takes to be the county’s third senator, citing his vast experience in governance, both in the public and private sectors.

Mr Mamaiyo, the ODM candidate, notes that people from the pastoral community in the county have been sidelined in leadership positions, saying this is their time.

With about three weeks remaining to the general election, the race can only get more interesting.

TOMORROW: Kakamega Senate race, which has narrowed down to a battle of two doctors